Confirmed: Nicki Minaj Video Director is a Dumbass

Have you seen Nicki Minaj’s ridiculous “Only” lyric video yet?

Apparently, there was some disagreement on the Internet over whether or not this video invokes Nazi imagery. If you’re like me and have seen an Indiana Jones movie, I’m sure you’ll agree immediately that it does. Predictably, folks have been upset about this video. Probably because it invokes the signifiers of a group that murdered millions of people and does so for no conceivable didactic reason.

And, if you’re unsure whether this was intended as a homage to Nazism or just “general fascism,” as some have suggested, Jeffrey Osborne, the video’s director, said this: Continue reading

Porn Lady Reads the Shulchan Aruch (NSFW)

Screen shot 2014-08-19 at 8.03.40 PM

The Shulchan Aruch is a massive anthology of Jewish law (aka halacha) compiled in 1565 in Venice by Rabbi Joseph Karo that is still considered authoritative by many Jewish sects. It is also a prop in this porn clip for some reason.

Perhaps the volume was sitting around whatever house this was filmed in and the producers thought it would make a clever intro to the sexytimes. But the actors’ ad-libs raise more questions that they should. Such as:

  • Is Liv Aguilera’s character pretending to read Hebrew or did her in-laws really teach it to her as she claims? She does know when it’s upside-down!
  • Who are her in-laws?
  • Are they her husband’s family?
  • Did she convert to marry him?
  • If she’s married, why is she having sex with this random dude whose relationship to her is never explained? Is she in an open relationship?
  • Which volume of the Shulchan Aruch is she reading?
  • Does she have a chavruta (study partner)? Does she want one?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I do have the very NSFW video, linked below the fold.

Continue reading

No Wives, Only Slaves: Crosspost With SAB

This is a guest post I wrote for Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. Read the full post here.

OMGWTFBIBLE is a new translation of the entire Hebrew Bible as a comedy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take my translation very seriously. Beyond all the jokes, in retranslating Genesis, I’ve discovered two trends that reveal the approach to women and property taken in the culture surrounding the text that are not apparent in existing translations.

One of the earliest decisions I made when writing the OMGWTFBIBLE was to maintain an almost megalomaniacal consistency. If a word was translated a particular way, I stuck with that translating, regardless of context or traditional approaches. This led to some striking discoveries in Genesis, particularly regarding the words usually translated as “wife” and “servant.” I discovered that, depending on how the book is translated, nobody gets married in Genesis. And everyone owns slaves. And it’s not a coincidence those two words are so controversial.

Read the rest here.

Ken Ham is Bad at Hebrew

Via Getty Images

In a glaringly stupid blog post, intellectual lightweight and Answers in Genesis non-mastermind Ken Ham calls out NASA for spending money on space exploration:

I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life. Even Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” in our recent debate, happily gloated about tax dollars being spent toward this effort. And now, secular scientists are at it again.

His reasoning? The Bible clearly says the Earth is special and God made it that way:

Secularists cannot allow earth to be special or unique—that’s a biblical idea (Isaiah 45:18). If life evolved here, it simply must have evolved elsewhere they believe. The Bible, in sharp contrast to the secular worldview, teaches that earth was specially created, that it is unique and the focus of God’s attention (Isaiah 66:1 and Psalm 115:16).

Unfortunately for Ken, the Bible doesn’t say that. The Hebrew in Isaiah 45:18, Isaiah 66:1, and Psalm 115:16 does not explicitly say that God made our planet uniquely special. In all three of those verses, the Hebrew word used is ארץ, which simply means “ground.” Setting aside the fact that this stuff was written before modern astronomy, “ground” doesn’t necessarily mean “only Earth.” Even if עולם, which often means “world,” was used, he’d still be wrong, since that word can also mean “universe.”

The thing that frustrates me most about religion is when its loudest advocates often don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.

<h/t: Raw Story, Huffington Post, Gawker>

Here Is A Boy In A Kippa Making Dick Jokes

Ok, sure! I could write something cute here about upending expectations based on appearances or about a Modern Orthodox kid telling these jokes to Howard Stern and Howie Mandel or about how there are only three jokes but instead I’ll just leave you with my favorite piece of this:

“I love comedians!” – Heidi Klum

What’s Your Favorite Verse?

Valerie Tarico has an interesting article at Salon in which she asks prominent atheists and anti-theists for their favorite Bible verse. Why? Well, as Tarico so compelling describes the Bible:

[Our] ancestors struggled with important questions that we still struggle with today: What is real? What is good? What is the meaning in our lives? How can we embrace love, joy, peace and wonder? How should we live in community with each other? The texts that were gathered into the Bible offer fragmentary glimpses of how that struggle evolved over the course of hundreds of years.

 

The writers were Iron Age tribesmen, members of a cruel and misogynistic society. They got a lot of things wrong. But they also got some very basic and beautiful things right. As is the case with many texts, both ancient and modern, those who have the fortitude to sift through the rubble can find real gems.

There are bunch of good ones in the article, but these are my favorite Old Testament quotes:

Social justice and community activism are central themes of the Bible. It is imperative that we not forget those who are in need and are voiceless. We live amongst those who are in need, it is in our best interest to ensure that their needs are met. Two of my favorite verses are Jeremiah 22:3 “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

—Kim Veal, Black FreeThinkersPeople of Color Beyond Faith

 

Though it is quite unspectacular, the biblical passage that has long shaped my approach to life is Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” I hate needless friction and conflict with others. I much prefer to get along with people, not to antagonize them with caustic comments or stinging responses. Otherwise, you’re just “putting out the fire with gasoline.” I always look to say the reconciling, tactful word. I have to be honest. I don’t butter people up. I sure don’t mind being scathing in my responses to bad apologetics arguments. But I try not to make it personal. I’d prefer to keep things respectful and friendly. And this stance stems from that passage of scripture.

—Robert M. Price, The Bible Geek webcast

 

There are many Bible verses that extol peace, justice, honesty, mercy, wisdom, altruism, and other basic human virtues, and in fact, I’ve written a whole article about verses I find excellent. Here is one that stands out: “And six years thou shalt sow thy land… But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard.” —Exodus 23:10-11 (KJV) The idea of empathy contained in the verse is even sufficiently broad to encompass wild animals – an important sign that its writer was thinking in terms of all-encompassing principles rather than simple reciprocity. It takes an enlightened spirit to have compassion even on birds and beasts.

—Adam Lee, Daylight Atheism

That last one really stand out to me. I’ve been translating Exodus recently and was blown away by how much chapter 23 seems to be about social justice. If I had to choose my favorite verse (so far), it’d be Exodus 23:1-2 (NIV).

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.”

What’s your favorite verse? Let me know in the comments!

Nun Sings Flashdance, Wins Big Contest

Isn’t it crazy that only 20 years ago, if a singing nun won “The Voice of Italy” or whatever singing competition TV show we had back then, you wouldn’t hear about it until days later? Back in good ol’ 1994, you wouldn’t be able to immediately watch video of that nun singing “What A Feeling” from Flashdance? I mean, maybe you’d see it eventually, but it’d be on a weird video site called “Uncle Bobby’s Crazy Things” and it’d be a grainy realvideo file that you downloaded in a zip along with Arnold Schwarzenneger’s Japanese TV commercials and the unaired episodes of David Lynch’s sitcom. Also, this nun would’ve been 5 years old back then. It’s pretty wonderful that we live in world with ready access to so many insane things.

Here are some brief notes on this video.

  1. If our civilization is completely wiped out and this video is the only remaining artifact, I think future generations will actually do a pretty good job of piecing together how we lived
  2. Sister Cristina Scuccia’s English is very good. The only song I know in Italian is “Volare” and I’m pretty sure that’s not even what it’s called
  3. I really like #SisterAx. That is very clever.
  4. The nuns dancing in the audience are amazing. I am fascinated by the way they’re dancing. It’s almost as though they’re experiencing a never-felt joy that’s trying to burst through bones and joints that haven’t moved this loosely in ages
  5. The Times is already worried winning this singing contest will lead Sister Cristina to abandon Jesus: “The bigger question mark in a country where some polls suggest that a majority of Italian women aspire to television fame is whether success will go to the head of the 25-year-old nun, possibly leading her astray from her calling.”
  6. Also, what kind of polls are these? Television fame? Why are Italian woman aiming so low? Why not movies?

Also, here’s another video:

 

Definitive Bible Coming

It looks like I’m going to have to start all over again. A group of scholars is working on something called “The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition,” aiming to finally redact all the wacky versions of the Hebrew Bible that have been floating around into one single, corrected text.

If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. According to JTA News:

The text of the Hebrew Bible now being used descends from what is called the Masoretic text, which was assembled between the sixth and 10th centuries by Jewish scribes and scholars in present-day Israel and Iraq. But even among the various versions of the Masoretic text there are subtle differences.

Many of today’s printings of the Hebrew Bible come from the Second Rabbinic Bible, a text assembled in 16th-century Venice. The Jewish Publication Society uses the Leningrad Codex, which at approximately 1,000 years old is the oldest complete surviving text. Still others use the 10th-century Aleppo Codex, which the Torah scholar Maimonides praised for its accuracy but has been missing much of the Torah since a 1947 fire.

Contemporary scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible’s text utilize a range of other sources, including ancient Greek and Syriac translations, quotations from rabbinic manuscripts, the Samaritan Pentateuch and others. Many of these are older than the Masoretic text and often contradict it, in ways small and large.

You’ve probably heard me refer to these various texts and the differences between them on the show. It’ll be cool to have all the variations in one place. No word yet on whether the Orthodox communities are flipping out.

The Holiness of OMGWTFBIBLE

I don’t know if you’ve realized, but by making fun of religion, OMGWTFBIBLE is actually serving a greater sort of holiness. In The American Scholar, Brian Doyle writes about the benefit of weaving humor into religion:

For all that religion has been a bloody enterprise through history, and for all that religious people seem often the most almighty easy people to offend, and for all that there are many people in my faith tradition who think I am an idiot to grin over the most colorful of our traditions, I think we should grin over the more colorful parts of our faith traditions. For one thing, they are often funny—imagine the wine steward’s mixed feelings at Cana after the miracle, for example—and for another, it seems to me that real honest genuine spirituality is marked most clearly by humility and humor. The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Meher Baba, Flannery O’Connor, Sister Helen Prejean, Pope Francis—all liable to laughter, and not one of them huffy about his or her status and importance. Whereas all the famous slimy murderers of history—Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, bin Laden—what a humorless bunch, prim and grim and obsessed with being feared. Can you imagine any one of them laughing, except over some new form of murder? Think about it—could laughter be the truest sign of holiness?

Who knew?

<h/t: The Daily Dish>

Spider-Man Is Jewish

What a Spider-Mensch!

Finally confirming my life-long suspicions, actor Andrew Garfield, the man who bears the name of one comic book character but plays another, has announced in an interview that Spider-Man is a yid.

As Jewcy wrote:

Garfield told The New York Post, ““Peter Parker is not a simple dude,” Garfield told Time Out. “He ums and ahs about his future because he’s neurotic. He’s Jewish. It’s a defining feature.”

I definitely don’t want to face down Spider-Man this week, when he’s subsisted on nothing but matza and cream cheese for days.